We are always looking for answers, for direction, and most importantly, for truth. We are filled with desires and plans, and motives and talents and they are all a gift from the God who loves us. These desires, talents, plans, and motives were not given to us by God in order to frustrate or confuse us, but so that we might seek the one who can tell us how we can order them all.
We have this hole in our heart, and it needs to be filled. Sometimes we fill this hole by seeking a better job, a better “situation”, friends, contacting that old pal from high school, and sometimes in destructive ways. God, in His very special way, uses these “confusions” to bring us closer to Him. The trouble is, sometimes we reject the direction he brings us and still try to seek him by our own means. In fact, we get in the way, and when truth is staring us in the face we look the other way. Most of the time, we run away from truth because it demands too much of us.
Let’s look at the narrative found in Matthew 19:16-22. The story is about the rich young man. He has everything everyone dreams of having; wealth, piety, youth, and intelligence. Yet, despite all of these good things he seeks out Jesus because he knows that he’s missing the last piece of the puzzle, the kingdom of heaven. We can imagine how excited Jesus was, looking at him with love, when he told him, live by the commandments and hearing the response, “I already do that”. Then, Jesus gives him the great commission: He calls the young man to perfection. Remember, Jesus wouldn’t say it if it weren’t possible, right? Jesus also gives the formula for achieving this perfection: “sell all that you have and give it to the poor and then come, follow me”.
We’ve heard this commission before: “come, follow me” beckoned all of the first disciples of Jesus who are probably all standing there around the young man with their jaws open, or perhaps even excited and nodding their heads in approval, ready to take them into their ranks. But, we know the end of the story. The young man turns away sad, unwilling to follow what the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE asked of him.
How often do we find ourselves in this situation? How often are we willing to go to Jesus, ask Him how to amend our lives, or show us the way and then neglect what he spoke to us? Better yet, how often do we just ignore what Christ taught to us in scripture because we are unwilling to be loved that much?! The fact is, Christ’s teaching is all over the scriptures, and better than that, he instituted a church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, could never fail us, and could always give us Jesus Himself both in Word and Sacrament.
How often do we substitute Christ’s actual command to remain in Him because it makes us uncomfortable. On the other hand, how often to we neglect the truth because of the humans entrusted to uphold it fail to reach perfection (all of us). Looking back in history we see people like Martin Luther, burdened by the complete depravity of humanity and, needing the assurance of salvation created schism within the body of Christ and created a new “church”: a church that was not founded on the institution of Christ but on Luther himself, and his interpretation of scripture, neglecting the Church that (despite him) has existed since Pentecost founded on rock of Jesus Christ. Today, this mindset has led others to pick and choose what they want to believe, who they want to lead them in prayer, and what truths satisfy them rather than heeding the call of Christ, “come, follow me”.
Jesus assures us that if we come to Him he will satisfy our longing, good measure, and will give us grace, flowing over. But, he gave us a formula for doing so. This isn’t because he wants us to be “comfortable” but because he wants us to have life in Him. “What gain is there to gain the whole world and to lose your own life?” (Mt. 16:24-27). So, come to Him, learn from Him, and be ready to follow Him when He calls you to Himself, do not follow the example of the rich man who went away sad because it cost Him the riches he accumulated on his own.